As Cam Newton earned his $57,000 pay for the day by leading the Carolina Panthers to a crushing victory over Arizona, Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood watched and listened with one eye and one ear.
He makes $57,000, too – but per year, not per day.
Underwood was worried Sunday night about his deputies on the road and working the jail. He watched the game and planned how he would deploy people to prevent any problems the next day at a school board meeting that was expected to be boisterous. He had drug officers working on cases to keep dope out of the hands of kids. Dope dealers carry guns as big as cannons.
The Arizona Cardinals had no guns.
Underwood and his officers in the weeks the Panthers were crushing playoff teams had caught one murder suspect who was armed and dangerous, and another gun-toting robbery suspect who was accused of terrifying store clerks in both York and Chester counties.
Chester deputies, some of whom make as little as $500 a week, risked their lives in those cases. Despite Underwood’s begging and pleading with politicians, he has not been able to give his deputies a raise.
Underwood was at both scenes where armed criminals could have taken lives.
Unlike big departments with specialized teams and equipment and more, Underwood’s 50 uniformed deputies had to rely on $20,000 in donations from the community to buy new bulletproof vests. On most cases in Chester, the arrest team is whoever is working. Underwood himself has had to lock up killers.
He has not received a raise since taking office. He makes less than the guy before him, and less than almost every sheriff and police chief in South Carolina.
But Underwood tells everybody that his officers deserve a raise first.
Cam Newton apparently has his critics. Some in Seattle – where their team will be crocheting afghans on Super Bowl Sunday – are mad that Newton is so thrilling and joyful in being so great.
Newton showed all season – and especially the last two Sundays – that he, right now, is the best at what he does. There is no second place. Gods stand alone.
His $103 million, multi-year contract also ensures that Newton will live and die among the richest people in America.
Underwood barely sleeps and gets alerts all day and night from dispatch and his officers about guns, threats and gangs. Underwood knows every day that some guy with a gun might try to hurt somebody, and that he and his officers will have to stop it.
Underwood tells all that he is Cam Newton’s biggest fan.
Underwood even went to that school board meeting Monday, where his deputies were assigned, because if his people were working, he was working.
He receives no overtime pay.
Maybe owner Jerry Richardson and the Carolina Panthers could donate the equivalent of one day of Newton’s salary to the Chester County Sheriff’s Office. Underwood said all of it, every penny, would go to the people who work for him.
All Panthers players will receive huge performance bonuses for reaching the Super Bowl. If Newton wins the Super Bowl, he and every Panthers player will receive a bonus of $97,000. The losing players receive $49,000 each.
Underwood said Wednesday that, for his officers, he would accept any donation from the Panthers.
Bring it on, Jerry.
Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065